I usually donít really go in for this kind of thing; portraits of women dealing with the men in their lives, but here director/writer Rebecca Miller has created something quite different.
Told as three separate chapters (Delia, Greta, Paula) we meet each woman as she goes about her usual activities, until we slowly comprehend the situation at hand. Then, granted a series of flashbacks, we are filled in as to why this is relevant to the conclusion. Delia (played magnificently by Kyra Sedgwick) deals with one white trash woman and her past that leads inexorably to her present and how she can change it if she has the courage.
Greta tells the story of a woman who married out of spite, and the repercussions for her if and when she manages to beat the reason for that spite.
Finally, there's Paula, the strangest and least decipherable of the stories. We open with Paula heading north in her beat-up car. She picks up a hitchhiker and we realise the reason for her flight north; in her confusion over a shocking event, her mind just leads her home to her folks. But then thereís the hitchhiker and the part he plays in all this.
This final entry is definitely the outrider here. Written later to fill out the film as a triptych, it bears the least similarity to the others, although its content is familiar enough. The whole vehicle has been shot using handheld cameras to increase the personal edge to the tales and this works very well, even if it proves a little frustrating at times. Made on a very low budget, the story is therefore carried on its strength of script and thankfully this is well written and believable. Another different idea used here is still photos to portray particular movement or events that I found added a documentary feel the film doesnít need, regardless of the handheld camera. In fact, it seemed to cheapen the film as it hasnít been used to the clever and relevant effect it was in, say, Run Lola Run.
Being a handheld camera, naturally the film is going to clunk about and shake throughout and this is most definitely the case with Personal Velocity. However, it is used convincingly and suits the overall style. Poorer film quality, however, leaves certain scenes with heavy grain, while there are liberal spatterings of lesser grains throughout the rest. There are also moments of occasional aliasing, although these are minimal and unobtrusive.
Colours are a little washed out throughout, but of course this comes down to the video camera thing again, though the film manages an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with 16:9 enhancement. The overall impression is of a personal documentary that works, but for the lovers of high tech camera quality, this may not be for you.
Although delivered in Dolby Digital 5.1, there is bugger all for the surrounds to do and for most of the film they just sit there humming away to themselves. Music comes across in the surrounds mostly, although this is sporadically placed within and needless really. A good stereo mix would have sufficed just as readily here.
On the subject of music, there is plenty dropped in throughout, but with the opening story and its white trashnessness, if you donít like country, look out. The score by Michael Rohatyn lends some sort of bizarre dream tension to the whole film as it appears in each vignette. This is an annoying synthesised soundtrack, mostly, and while effective is still bloody irritating by filmís end.
Dialogue and sound effects are well placed and even, though again the surrounds are wasted with little to do regarding these. All dialogue is within the central speaker with no real mobile movement.
As to extras, there are quite a bunch and well worth looking at, even if a little self-ingratiating occasionally. The first is the audio commentary with novellist/screenplay writer/director Rebecca Miller. This is alright and understated with some nice descriptions of smaller facts and figures, but a solitary commentator is rarely as interesting as a party.
A 30 minute featurette entitled In Conversation: Rebecca, Parker, Fairuza and Kyra follows. This is fairly interesting as we learn the reasons our actors had for playing their roles and while expanding on the film a fair bit, gets a little arse-kissing at times. We also get the same annoying piano recital quality score over the top.
An on the set documentary follows and runs for 14:08. This contains no intros and no explanation, but is just a second camera filming the making of, in essence. There are some nice side-by-side pieces of final footage with actual recording, but most is just outtakes and backstage stuff.
Finally, the trailer, which does the film justice without giving anything major away. This runs for just over two minutes and is again in enhanced 1.85:1.
Overall, Iíd say for anyone looking for a slightly different drama could do worse than check this one out. Some sensational performances from all three major players truly add interest to what could easily have been an overlooked film. While having both feet lodged firmly in the womenís camp, it is however a well told series that isnít a male bash by any means, rather a homage to the difficulties and realities of some womenís lives.